Selling & Salespersons have a dubious reputation. Many colloquial expressions such as “Canvassing”, “Converting” etc highlight the misconception in society that selling is about “pushing” or “brain washing” an idea or product to a hapless buyer. No wonder five year-olds don’t talk of being a salesperson when they grow up. Yours truly was also one such youngster who dreamed of being a soldier. Majority of salespersons hence land up in sales because his/her other dreams didn’t realize or wasn’t sure of what else to do.
My education in the art & science of selling started with my first job in IT solutions sales & developed further during my years as a pharmaceutical sales rep. While I am not in a sales position now, this journey taught me one vital truth: Everyone should learn how to sell!
Selling involves understanding the need of the buyer & addressing that need in exchange for something of value. This is easier said than done though. This requires mastery of a number of skills such as listening, conversing, negotiating, context-setting etc.
Humans are natural salespersons. A child knows how to use his smile, adorable mannerisms to get the affection it deserves & to use antics to subdue parents to its will. Children have no inhibitions to ask what they need. And with appropriate negotiations from adults, are agreeable to exhibition of right behavior in exchange. We lose this natural ability as our ego develops & we conform to societal norms of exchange. Yet people who hone & develop these skills are able do well in life.
Lets look at how & start with family. All sustainable relationships require a balance of mutually acceptable exchanges of value. Typically in a family, husband is expected to provide & protect, wife to care & children to make themselves capable of supporting the family in future. However for all these responsibilities, each family member needs something in return. It could be an understanding & caring husband, loving wife, appreciative children etc. & when these needs are not met, relationships strain & partnerships break. Instead of stopping to think what is the need of our beloved ones, we expect heavy returns for what we provide.
Progressing one’s career in an organisation is no different. While it’s presumed that all members of an organisation shares the same objective, various departments that build the organisation have differing sub objectives & deliverable. Thus when you ignore the needs of co-workers, there’s no incentive for them to help you succeed, rather in some cases it might give them pleasure in seeing an inconsiderate co-worker’s pain. Constant tussles between commercial, finance, legal, technical, compliance & logistics departments are legendary.
Active listening to understand the needs of a buyer should come as second nature to a sales professional. Unfortunately, a lack of appreciation of the need for a study in the science of selling have left many organisations with large sales force incapable of building value for the brand.
Salespersons are given hard deadlines to deliver on sales objectives. Like any other discipline, if professionals are not properly trained, they struggle. Pressure mounts & instead of addressing buyer’s needs, “sales professionals” resort to serving the “wants & demands” of customers/dealers & other short cuts to meet their targets. This leads to management wondering the value of maintaining an expensive sales force on one hand & leaves consumers/society feeling cheated by businessmen on the other hand.
If this is the condition of Sales Professionals, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if the common man struggle to deal with family, co-workers, supervisors & relatives. We fail to identify needs of others, negotiate mutually agreeable terms of engagement & forge meaningful relationships, thereby getting in to arguments, breakups & severing of ties.
This doesn’t mean one cannot survive without formal training in selling. The innate salesperson in us help navigate many difficult situations in life. However an understanding & conscious application of sales principles would help us in significantly improving our chance of success. If one is able to listen & comprehend the needs of people around & apply principles of selling to every day life, it would help in forging long lasting relationships. These relationships then helps one feel wanted & ultimately feel satisfied with one’s position in society.
Leaders that society admires are able to consciously or otherwise exhibit the qualities of a good salesperson, such as personality, listening skill, articulation, courtesy, patience, knowledge of issues, perseverance etc.
One could hence argue that learning principles of selling can help anyone regardless of profession or status in the society. How do you then apply principles of selling in your everyday life? While there are many books that dwell in to this subject, you may find my perspectives in subsequent blogs.
Please leave your comments & suggestions. Your feedback would help me learn & produce better material going forward.